Hamilton has been rated one of the best places in Canada to buy real estate.
In the annual survey by MoneySense Magazine the city is rated second among 35 hot real estate markets in the country.
The high score is no surprise to Kim Alvarez, president of the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton Burlington.
"I'm really not surprised Hamilton received such a high ranking," she said. "We have a very active market here with extreme interest that has not slowed down at all.
"I think this news will set the pace for the rest of the year," she added.
Compilers of the MoneySense list admitted some surprise at the fact the top four cities on the list are in Ontario, a province heavily hit in recent years by the slowdown in manufacturing, sliding exchange rates and tanking oil prices.
Hamilton, Brantford and Guelph climbed by as many as five spots on the list over last year, the magazine reported. All three cities have high average household incomes in common — ranging from $78,000 to just over $95,000 — while unemployment ranges from 4 per cent to 5.7 per cent, significantly lower than the current national average of 7.2 per cent.
At $443,000, MoneySense also noted Hamilton's average home price is the highest of the bunch, but the city also boasts the highest compound annual rate of return for a five-year period at 7.3 per cent.
The magazine's ranking for Hamilton was based on several statistics:
a five-year price rise of 7.3 per cent, a buy-to-rent ration of 0.57, rental vacancy rate of 3.4 per cent, average disposable income of $43,258 and projected gross domestic product growth this year of 2.5 per cent.
RAHB (REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington) has said repeatedly, one factor driving the local market is the fact demand for homes remains high while supply remains tight, resulting in rising prices.
Earlier this month, for example, the association reported 1,131 sales in February with an average sale price of $463,234. Over that same time, 1,527 properties were listed, which is an increase of 7.3 per cent compared to February 2015 but 9.8 per cent lower than the 10-year average.
The demand for local properties has grown so hot, one home on the west mountain sold recently for $101,000 more than the owner's asking price, a premium of $27,000 over the average selling price for the Mountain.
Despite the imbalance between supply and demand, a recent study by RBC concludes homes are still affordable in Hamilton. The bank's fourth quarter Housing Trends and Affordability Report concluded it takes about 35 per cent of a local family's pre-tax income to service the cost of owning a home. That includes mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes. Nationally, the figure was 46.7 per cent. That's the highest the measure has been in the past five years.
Other studies have warned some of the heat in the market results from low interest rates. With wage growth not keeping pace with real costs of living some buyers could find themselves quickly in trouble if interest rates rise.
Thunder Bay was ranked the number 1 real estate market in Canada based on the "remarkable buying power" of resident's average income of $81,000 and home prices average just under $216,000 last year. That's a little over two and a half times the average household income, not bad compared to Toronto where homes are six times the average household income and Vancouver where they are nine times.